Between Two Thieves
SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS :
In the first chapter we catch a passing glimpse of Hector Dunoisse, the hero of the story, aged, paralytic and near to death, honored and respected by Kings and Emperors for his great life work for the relief of the wounded in war. Time is then set back seventy years, and we find him in about the year 1840, a boy at the Military School in Paris, fighting a duel with a comrade, de Moulny, who is wounded owing to Hector’s accidentally falling.
Hector’s mother was the daughter of the Hereditary Prince of Widinitz, a Bavarian Principality, and had entered a convent as Sister Therese de St. Francois, which she left to marry Marshal Dunoisse, Hector’s father, formerly one of Napoleon’s generals. Her fortune of over a million francs previously dedicated to the convent was afterwards reclaimed by her husband and paid to him on condition that his wife should re-enter the sisterhood, which she did when Hector was eight years of age. It was the relation by de Moulny of this story of which Hector was ignorant, that led to the duel.
A reconciliation takes place. Hector takes an oath never to touch a penny of the money thus infamously acquired, while de Moulny in return swears to be his friend till death. Shortly afterwards they are estranged by the circulation of a false report that Hector’s fall was intentional and that he had wounded de Moulny by a trick. His vow places him in sore financial straits, but he makes rapid progress in his profession and becomes adjutant of his regiment.
Ada Merling, the heroine of the story of whom Florence Nightingale is the prototype, has met Hector and admires his self-denial in refusing to touch his mother’s fortune.
The present chapter continues the account of an incident which led directly to the overthrow of the Orleans dynasty in 1848. The streets of Paris were filled with a mob clamoring for a change of government. Dunoisse was in command of the troops guarding the Foreign Office. Seated on horseback he caught sight behind him of de Moulny with Madame de Roux his colonel’s wife. Suddenly from their direction a pistol shot rang out and a voice cried “Fire,” whereupon Dunoisse’s troopers, thinking the command came from him, fired into the crowd, killing and wounding many persons.
You could not see the soldier’s faces, the smoke of that deadly volley had rolled back and hung low, topping the living wall of steel and flesh. But as it lifted, and they saw, by the light of the lamps in the courtyard behind them, the bloody heaps of dead and wounded men and women, mingled with children not a few, that made a shambles of the thoroughfare, upon whose gory stones the drum lay flattened, a hollow groan burst from the wavering ranks, and oaths and threats were uttered.
Confusion reigned in the Hotel, a Bahel of voices clamoured in the courtyard that was seething with excited humanity and littered with broken glass and bits of plaster knocked from the walls by ricochet-ting bullets. As Dunoisse returned on foot, leading his limping, bleeding mare through the dead and dying, de Roux, Colonel commanding the 999th, a plethoric, pursy
bon-vivant, who had been dining with the unpopular Minister in his private cabinet that looked upon the gardens, and had been snatched from the enjoyment of an entrée of canard à la Rouennaise by the crash of the discharge, burst out of the Hotel, thrust his way through the huddled ranks, bore down on the supposed culprit, gesticulating and raving:
“Death and Damnation ! Hell and furies !-”
— “Madman!” he spluttered out; “what crazy impulse induced you to give the word to fire? . . Insensate homicide!—do you know what you have done? Take his parole, Lieutenant Mangin. Not a word, sir! You shall reply to the interrogations of a military tribunal, as to this evening’s bloody work!”
Dunoisse, forbidden to explain or exonerate himself, saluted the blotchy, wild-eyed Colonel, and gave up his sword to his junior. You saw him ap-
parently calm, if livid under his Red Indian’s skin, and bleeding from a bullet-graze that burned upon his cheek like red-hot iron. The leather peak of his red shako had been partly shot away, the skirt of the tight-waisted grày-blue field-frock had a bullet-rent in it. His throat seemed as though compressed by the iron collar of the garotte, his heart beat as though it must burst from the breast that caged it. But his head was held stiff and high and his black eyes never blinked or shifted, though his lips, under the little black moustache with the curved and pointed ends, made a thin white line against the deep sienna-red of his richly-tinted skin.
“Sacred thunder! .... Return to your quarters, sir!”
De Roux, becoming alive to the napkin, plucked it from his bemedalled bosom and, realizing the fact of the fork, whipped it smartly behind his back. Dunoisse saluted stiffly, gave up his bleeding charger to his orderly, saluted again, wheeled, and deliberately stepped out of the radius of the Hotel gas-lamps, flaring still, though their massive globes had been broken by ricochetting bullets, into the dense gray fog that veiled the boulevard, where dimly-seen figures moved, groping among the dead, in seach of the living. .
“The Monarchy will pay dearly for this act of criminel folly! . . . How came he to give the order?” de Roux demanded.
And the subaltern officer, whose glance had followed the retreating figure of Dunoisse, withdrew it to reply: ^ “My Colonel, he gave no order. A pistol-shot came from behind ns—a voice that was a stranger’s cried ‘Fire!’ The discharge followed instantly, and the people fled, leaving their dead behind them.”
“Why did he not defend himself?” de Roux muttered, glancing over his shouder at the huge broken-windowed facade of the Hotel rising beyond the imposing carriage-entrance, the enclosing wall and the gateway and the tall spear-headed railings that backed the
huddled figures and lowering, sullen faces of the unlucky half-battalion.
“Because, my Colonel, you had ordered him to be silent, and to return to his quarters. They are in the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. And he has gone to them by that route.”
The Lieutenant’s sword pointed the direction in which the slim, upright, soldierly figure had vanished. The Colonel growled:
“Why should he choose that route? })
And the Lieutenant thought, but did not answer:
“Possibly because he hopes to meet Death upon the way! . . .”
Colonel de Roux, with clank of trailing scabbard and jingle of gilt spurs, stormed up the double line of abashed and drooping red képis. Interrogated, Monsieur the Captain in command of the company posted at the eastern angle of the courtyard enclosure, gave in substance the information already supplied.
“A pistol-shot came from behind us —a stranger’s voice gave the order
‘Fire !’—the discharge followed.......
One would have said it was an arranged thing. One would-”
De Roux glanced over his goldencrusted shoulder at the facade of broken windows and chipped stone ornaments. The Captain, the same lively de Kerouatte who had paid Dunoisse that ancient, moss-grown debt of three thousand francs upon the steps of Rothschild’s, continued, as though the note of warning had not reached his ear:
“Madame de Roux would be able to corroborate. I saw Madame—previously to the ^ deplorable accident—in the Hotel vestibule, conversing with an official in diplomatic uniform. She-”
“You are mistaken, sir !” said the Colonel, purple where he had been crimson, mulberry-black where he had been purple, and screwing with a rasping sound at his bristling moustache : “Madame de Roux is on a visit to some young relatives at Bagneres. This perturbed and disaffected capital is no place for a soul so sensitive, a nature so impressionable as Madame’s. I have
begged her to remain absent until these disturbances are calmed.”
“A hundred thousand pardons! My Colonel, how idiotic of me not to have remembered that I had the honor of meeting Madame de Roux upon the Public Promenade at Bagneres only yesterday.......I ven-
tured to accost Madame, and asked her whether I could have the honor to convey any message to you? Madame said 1 None/ but added that she felt deliciously well. And to judge by appearances, there is no doubt but that the air of Bagneres agrees with her to a marvel!”
De Kerouatte reeled off this unblushing fabrication with an air of innocence ineffably insulting, inconceivably fraught with offence. De Roux could grow_ no blacker—against the congested duskiness of his face, his little red wildboar’s eyes showed pale pink and he clanked and jingled back into the Hotel.
The Colonel’s gilt spurs had not long jingled over the tessellated pavement of the vestibule, before, from one of the smaller, private waiting-rooms, the figure of a lady emerged. She beckoned with a little hand, that had great blazing rubies on its slender finger and childlike wrist ;
and from a corner of the wide courtyard, crashing over the broken glass and shattered fragments of the carved stone wreaths that garlanded the high windows, came a little, dark brougham lined with gray velvet, a vehicle of the unpretending kind in which ladies who gambled on the Bourse were wont to drive to their stock-brokers, or in which ladies who gambled with their reputations were accustomed to be conveyed elsewhere.............
A nondescript official, neither lackey nor porter, still mottled and streaky in complexion from the recent alarm of the fusilade, emerged from some unlighted corner of the tall portico into the flaring yellow gaslight, followed the ladv of the ermine mantle down the wide steps and with a zealous clumsiness suggestive of the Police, pushed forward to open^ the carriage door. Recoiling from his assiduous civility with pal-
pable uneasiness, the lady shook her veiled head. The intruder persisted, prevailed; and in that instant found himself thrust aside by the vigorous arm and powerful shoulder of a tall, heavily built young man in the chocolate, goldbuttoned, semi-military undress frock that distinguishes secretaries and attachés of the Ministry.
“You presume, my friend!” said a voice the lady knew ; and as she rustled to her seat, and settled there with nestling, bird-like movements, a light brown, carefully curled head bent towards her. The scent of cigars and the fashionable red jasmine came to her with the entreaty :
“There may be peril for you in these
streets.......Will you not let me
accompany you home?”
“In that coat......... Not for the
world !” said a soft voice through the intervening veil, and the warm perfumed darkness of the little brougham. “You would expose me to the very peril you are anxious to avert.”
“True!” he said, repentant. “I was a fool not to remember! Grant but a moment and the coat is changed!”
“I would grant more than a moment,” she answered in a voice of strange, ineffable cadences, “to the wearer, were the coat of the right color!” A little trill of laughter, ending the sentence, robbed it of weight, while adding subtlety. But its meaning went to the quick. De Moulny sighed out into the fragrant darkness:
“Oh—Henriette ! Henriette !”
She continued as though she had not heard :
“And I hope to see you wearing it— a little later ont> Good-night, my friend. Do not be anxious for my safety. My coachman will be cautious. All will be well!”^ She added: “You see I am
becoming prudent, rather late in the day.”
He said, and his tone grated:
“They will mark the day in the calendar with red.”
A sob set the warm sweet air within the enchanted brougham vibrating.
“You are too cruel. I have been guilty of an act of unpardonable folly.
But who would have dreamed of so terrible a result?”
“Anyone,” he answered her in a bitter undertone, “who has ever set a kindled match to gunpowder or poured alcohol upon a blazing fire !”
The light from the carriage-lamps showed his white face plainly. His hard blue eyes frightened her—his forehead seemed that of a judge. She shivered, and her whisper was as piercing as a scream :
“Or dared a woman to commit an act of rashness. Do not you in your heart condemn me as a murderess? Your tongue may deny it, but your eyes have told me that instead of rolling in a carriage over those bloodstained stones beyond these gates, I should crawl over them upon my hands and knees. Is it not so, Alain?”
Between the thick frosted flowers of her veil, her brilliant glance penetrated him. A cold little creeping shudder stiffened the hair upon his scalp and trickled down between his broad shoulders like melted snow......Her breath
came to him as a breeze that has passed over a field of flowering clover. Her lips, as they uttered his name, stung him to the anguish longing for their kiss.
“I have not condemned you!” he muttered. “Do not be unjust to me!”
She breathed in a whisper that touched his forehead like a caress:
“Had you reproached me, you would have been in the right. Well, dare me again !—to denounce the person guilty of this massacre....... I am quite ca-
pable of doing it, I give you my word!
......Perhaps they would send me to
Ham !.............Who knows?”
A nervous titter escaped her. She bent her head, trying to stifle it, but it would have its way. She caught the lace of her veil in her little white teeth and nipped it. De Moulny saw the creamy rounded throat that was clasped by a chain of diamonds, swell witnin the ermine collar. He knew, as he inhaled the seductive fragrance that emanated from her, the exquisite allure of whiteness against white. Visions so poignant were evoked, that he remained spellbound, leaning to her, drinking her in. She continued, and now with real agitation :
“I shall see them in my dreams, those dead men in blouses—if ever I sleep
again !.....Ah, bah ! Horrible !.....
Please tell the coachman home. Rue de Sèvres.” She added before he withdrew his head to obey her: “Unless I
take the Prefecture of Police upon my way?......
He retorted with violence :
“Be silent ! You shall not torture me as you are doing!”
“Then,” she said, with another hysterical stifled titter, “pray tell the coachman to take me home.”
He told the man, who leaned a haggard face from the box to listen; and added a warning to drive through the most unfrequented streets and to be careful of Madame. To Madame he said, hovering over her for another fascinated instant before he shut the carriage door upon the warm seductive sweetness :
“Remember, you are not to be held accountable for a moment of madness. Y ou never meant to pull the trigger. I swear that you did not!”
He drew back his head and shut the door. The window was down, and he looked in over it to say again: “Re-
member!” A whisper caught his ear:
“The pistol.....Where is it?”
Pie touched himself significantly upon the breast.
“I have it here. I shall keep it ! You are not to be trusted with such dangerous things, impulsive and excitable as you are.”
“Dear friend, such weapons are to be bought where one will, and those who sell them do not inquire into the temperament of the buyer. Tell me something, Alain!.....”
He said in a passionate undertone :
“I love you to madness !......Henriette !.......”
“Ah, not that now, dear friend, I beg of you!”
^Henriette, I implore you-”
A small warm velvet hand alighted on de Moulny’s mouth. He kissed it devouringly. It was drawn away, and next instant the sweet, sighing voice launched a poisoned dart that pierced him to the marrow:
“Tell me, Alain! If I pulled the trigger of the pistol in a moment of
madness, were you quite sane when you cried out ‘Fire!’?”
She pulled up the window as de Moulny, with a deathly face, fell back from it. The coachman, taking the sound as a signal, whipped up the eager horse. The little brougham rolled through the tall gateway into the frosty fog that hung down like a gray curtain over the bloody pavement, and was swallowed up in the mad whirlpool of Insurrection, to be cast up again on the shores of the Second Republic of France.
Follow, not the furtive little brougham, but Dunoisse, rejected of Death, perhaps because he courted the grim
mower..... Follow him through the
populous fog to the corner of the Rue Lafitte, where the scattered units of the shattered column of bloused men and wild-eyed women had assembled in front of the Café Tortoni, occupying the angle between this street and the boulevard.
A bearded man, the same who had carried the Red Flag, was addressing the people from the steps of the Café. Dunoisse, like a striving swimmer, battled in the muddy waves of that same sea, in the endeavor to reach the steps where raved the orator. But when at last he gained the steps, and the mingling glare and flare of the oil-lamps and the gas showed up the loathed gray-blue and red of the Line the cry that went up from all those hot and steaming throats was as the howl of ravening wolves:
“Murderer ! Accursed ! Back to your corps ! Down with the Ministry I Down with the Line!”.....
A hundred hands, some of them stained with red, thrust out to seize Dunoisse and tear and rend him. A hundred voices demanded his blood in expiation, his life for all those lives spilled on the paving-stones of the Boulevard des Capucines^.....
“Take it if you will!” cried Dunoisse at the fullest pitch of his clear hard ringing voice, “but let me speak I”
“What is it to me what you do?” he cried. “Death comes to all sooner or later. But upon the honor of a
gentleman! on the parole of an officer! —I gave no order to fire. The shot came from behind ! The voice that cried ‘Fire!’ was not mine. I swear it upon the faith of a Catholic!”
This was not a popular asseveration. The voice of the speaker was drowned in execrations :
“Ah, malefactor! Assassin! Down with him! Down with the priests! Death to the Army! Long live Reform !”
A man with a musket leaped on the steps, and levelled the loaded weapon ; the unfortunate young officer looked at him with a smile. Death would have been so simple a way out of the cul-de-sac in which Dunoisse now found himself. For if the People would not believe, neither would the Army. He was, thanks to this cruel freak of Fate, a broken, ruined man. Perhaps his face conveyed Ms horrible despair, for the fury of the crowd abated; they ceased to threaten, but they would not listen ; they turned sullenly away. And the bearded man who had carried the Red Flag, tapped him on the epaulet, made a significant gesture, and said contemptuously:
“Be off with you!”
Dunoisse, abandoned even by Death, looked at the speaker blankly. He was burnt out; the taste of ashes was bitter in his mouth.
He knew that this meant black ruin if the Monarchy stood, and ruin blacker still if Red Revolution swept the Monarchy into the gutter. Whose was the hand that had been guilty of the fatal pistol-shot?
He knew, or thought he knew—for the voice that had cried out “Fire!” had been undoubtedly de Moulny’s. And the anguish he tasted was of the poignant, exquisite quality that we may only know when the hand that has stabbed us under cover of the dark has been proved to be that of a friend.
The people collected their dead and their wounded, and commandeered waggons, and loaded them with the pale harvest reaped from the bloody paving-
stones before the great gateway and the tall gilded railings and the chipped facade with the shattered windows, behind which the unpopular driver of the Coach of the Crown sat gripping* the broken reins of State.
The noise of firing, and of furious cries, with the clanging of church-bells, sounding the tocsin at the bidding of Revolutionary hands, reached the ears of Pale Louis Philippe at the Tuileries, and must have shrieked in them that all was over!
For all was over even before the Place du Palais Royal was filled by thousands of armed insurgents; before the Palais was stormed and gutted; before the Fifth Legion of the National Guard marched upon the Tuileries; followed by the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Tenth : before the Deed of Abdication was signed and the Royal dwelling emptied of its garrison.
With the aid of the English Admiralty, and the British Consul at Havre, Mr. Thomas Smith, his lady and their grandchildren, obtained berths on the Express packet-boat, and the voyage to Newhaven was accomplished without disaster. Claremont received the Royal refugees; the Tory organs of the English Press were distinctly sympathetic; even the ultra-Whig prints, amidst stirring descriptions of barricade-fighting and the carnage on the Boulevard des Capucines, refrained from the dubious sport of mud-throwing at the monarch all shaven and shorn. . . .
The popular Reviews devoted some pages to the favorable comparison of peaceable, contented, happy England (then pinched and gaunt with recent famine, breaking out in angry spots with ^ Chartist riots)—with feverish, frantic, furious France.
You are to imagine, amidst what burning of powder and enthusiasm, what singing of the Marseillaise and the Chant des Girondins hy the multitudes of patriots in the streets, as by redcapped prime donne at the Opera, was carried out the refurbishing and gilding of those three ancient Jagannaths, baptised so long ago in human blood
by the divine names of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
And you are to suppose yourself witness—many similar scenes being enacted elsewhere—of the White Flag of Orleans being hauled down from above the gilded bronze gates and the great central Pavilion of the Palace of the Tuileries, and the Tricolor breaking out in its place. ,
Conceive, this being accomplished with bloodshed, and sweat, and frezy; France neighing for a new paramour, even as the perfumed and adorned harlot of Holy Writ. He came, as for her bitter scourging it was written he should come. . . . From what depths he
rose up, with his dull, inscrutable eyes, his manner silky, ingratiating, suave as that of the Swiss-Italian manager of a restaurant grill-room; his consummate insincerity, his hidden aims and secret ambitions; and his horribly-evident, humiliating galling impecuniosity, it is for a great writer and satirist to tell in days to be.
All the blood shed in that accursed December of the Coup d’Etat of 1851 flowed quickly away down the Paris gutters; it has vanished from the pavements of the Rue Montmartre, and from the flagstones of the courtyard of the Prefecture ; was drunk by the thirsty gravel of the Champ de Mars, where battues of human beings were carried oufi but it has left its indelible stain behind. . . .
Scrape me a pinch of dust from those dark, accusing, ominous patches; and pound therewith a fragment of the mouldering skull of a British soldier (of all those hundreds that lie buried in the pest-pits of Varna, and in those deep trenches beside the lake of Devina, one can well be spared). Compound from the soil of Crim Tartary (enriched so well with French and English blood) a jet-black pigment. Dilute with water from the River Alma. And then, with ink so made, write down the name of Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the Prince of Pretenders, who became by fraud and craft and treachery and murder, Emperor of France.
Dumoisse had anticipated as the result of that fatal volley a Court-Martial Inquiry under auspices Monarchical or Republican—and in the absence of indisputable evidence that the word of command to fire had not been given by the officer accused, a sentence of dismissal of that unlucky functionary from the Army.
The sword did not fall. The Assistant-Adjutant remained suspended from his duties, and in confinement at his quarters in the Rue de la Chaussee d’Antin, exactly five days; during which Paris seethed like a boiling pot. Various documents, clumsily printed in smeary ink upon paper of official buff, reached Dunoisse during this period of detention; and whereas Number One was headed by the arms of the Reigning House of Bourbon, Number Two displayed a significant blotch of sable printing-ink in lieu of that ornate device; with “REPUBLIC OF FRANCE” stamped in bold Roman capitals across the upper margin.
Monsieur the Marshall, despite his increasing infirmities, enlivened his son’s captivity with occasional visits. The smell of blood and gunpowder, the thunder of cannon and the summons of the trumpet, had made the old warhorse prick up his ears, neigh and prance about in his cosy paddock. He pooh-poohed the notion of a CourtMartial. Absorbing immense pinches of snuff, he argued—and not without point—that a Republican Government could hardly visit with the scourges of condign displeasure an act that had materially hastened the downfall of the Monarchy.
“You will see ! . . . It is as I say ! . . . This arrest is a mere piece of
official humbug. No doubt it was better for your own sake that you should not be seen in the streets for a day or so, one can conceive that !—these ultraReds have good memories and long knives, sacred name of a pig!”
The old man trumpeted in his yellow silk handkerchief, hobbling about the room in tremendous excitement, swing-
ing the ample skirts and heavy tassels of his Indian silk dressing-gown, twirling his gold-headed Malacca cane to the detriment of the inlaid furniture and the cabinets loaded with the chinaware and porcelain that had belonged to the lost Marie-Bathilde. . . .
“You gave the word to fire—why trouble to deny it? Upon my part, I defend the act!—I applaud it!—I admire! It was the idea of an Imperialist,—a move of strategical genius—• fraught at a moment like this with profound political significance. Sapristi! —we shall have an Emperor crowned and reigning at the Tuileries, and you, with the Cross and a Staff appointment —you will learn what it means to have served a Bonaparte. Ha! hah, ha!” “Sir,” said his son, who had been looking out of the window during this tirade, and who now turned a sharp set face upon the father’s gross, inflamed, triumphant visage: “you mistake. . . . I am not capable of committing murder for the furtherence of political ends or private ambitions. For this act that commands your admiration I am not responsible. I declare my innocence before Heaven! and shall to my latest breath, before the tribunals of men.” “Ta, ta, ta! Blague! rhodomontade! pure bosh and nonsense !” The Marshal took an immense double pinch of snuff. “Be as innocent as you please before Heaven, but if you value the esteem of men who are men—*Gredieu!— and not priests and milksops, you will do well to appear what you call guilty. At this moment such a chance is yours as falls to not one man in a hundred thousand—as fell to me but once in my life. Make the most of it! You will if you are not absolutely a fool!”
And Monsieur the Marshal hobbled to the door, but came back to say: “You appear not to have heard that His Hereditary Highness of Widinitz is dead. There can be no obligation upon you to refrain from appearing at ordinary social functions, but I presume you will accord to your grandfather’s memory the customary tokens of respect? A band of crape upon the sleeve—a knot of crape upon the sword-
hilt will not compromise yonr dignity, or endanger your independence, I presume?”
“I presume not, sir I” said Hector with an unmoved face.
And the Marshal departed, spilling enough snuff upon the carpet to have made an old woman happy for a day . . . Later, an orderly from Head-
quarters in the Rue de l’Assyrie, brought from the younger Dunoisse’s Chief—a purple-haired, fiery-faced personage, with whom the reader has already rubbed shoulders—the intimation that, pending official inquiry into a certain regrettable event, not more broadly particularized in words, the Assistant Adjutant of the 999th of the Line would be expected to return to his duties forthwith.
And within an hour of the receipt of this notification Dunoisse was the recipient of a little, lilac-tinted note, regretting in graceful terms that the writer had most unhappily been absent from home when M. Dunoisse had called ; inviting him to a reception, to be held upon the following evening at the Rue de Sevres, Number Sixteen. . . .
That delicately-hued, subtly-perfumed little billet, penned in thick, brilliant violet ink in a small, clear, elegantlycharacteristic handwriting, signed “Henriette de Roux.” . . .
Ah! surely there was something about it that made Hector, in tne very act of tossing it into the fire, pause and inhale its perfume yet again, and slip it between the pages of a blue-covered Manual of Cavalry Tactics that lay in a litter of gloves, studs, collars, and razors, small change and handkerchiefs, cigars and toothpicks, upon the Empire dressing-table, whose mirror had framed the wild, dark, brilliant beauty of the Princess Marie-Bathilde.
The features it gave back now, clear, salient, striking, vigorous in outline as those representing the young Bacchus upon a coin of old Etruria, were very like the mother’s. And their beauty, evoking the careless, admiring comment of a coquette, had stained the pavement before the Hotel of the Ministry of For-
eign Affairs with blood that was to darken it for many a day to come.
The invitation, coming from such a source, could not be declined—must be regarded as an order. Dunoisse wrote a line of acceptance, despatched it by his soldier-valet,—and went out.
The streets of Paris still ran thick with the human flood that ebbed and flowed, surged and swirled, roaring as it went with a voice like the voice of the sea. . . . Bands of military students and Gardes Mobiles patrolled the upheaved streets—National Guards fraternised with the people, while squadrons of mounted chasseurs and detachments of Municipal Guards patrolled the thoroughfares, and Commissaries of Police bore down on stationary groups and coagulated masses of the vast crowd, crying:
“Circulate! In the Name Of The Republic!”—with little more success than when they had adjured it in the name of fallen Majesty and impotent Law, to roll upon its way.
Dunoisse went to the Barracks in the Rue de l’Assyrie, and later to the Club of the Line, prepared for a chilly, even hostile reception. He met with elaborate cordiality from his equals, condescension as elaborate on the part of his superiors.
The Dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies, the abolition of the Chamber of Peers, was in every mouth ; the political convictions and personal qualifications of the members constituting the New Provisional Administration were discussed with heat and eagerness: the sporting odds given and taken upon and against the chances of the exiled Claimant to the Imperial Throne being permitted to return to France and canvass for election. Some said: “It will never be permitted,” and others: “He has already been communicated with,” and others even more positive announced: “He is now upon his way!” . . .
But not a single reference was made to the affair of the fusilade at the foreign Ministry, though a chance hint, dropped amidst the Babel, gave Dun-
oisse to understand that the Conservative-Republican and Democratic newspapers had not been so merciful.
Lives there the man who could have refrained, under the circumstances, from hunting through the files of the past week? It was a leading article in the Avenement that first caught the young man’s eye, and what a whip of scorpions the anonymous writer wielded! What terrible parallels were drawn, what crushing epithets hurled at the unlucky head of the victim.
And as though in mockery, yet another burden of shame must be piled upon the overladen shoulders: a brief, contemptuous paragraph in the Ordre caught the young man’s eye, referring in jesting terms to that pretentious mourning-hatchment mounted over the door of the paternal mansion . . .
touching lightly on the vexed question of Succession, hinting that the Catholics of the Bavarian Principality of Widinitz were being stirred up by the agents of “a certain wealthy, unscrupulous impostor and intriguer” to rebel against the nomination, by the Council of the Germanic Federal Convention, of the Lutheran Archduke Luitpold of Widinitz, nephew of the departed Prince, as Regent. . . . And heavy clouds of anger and resentment gathered upon Dunoisse’s forehead as he read.
They darkened upon him still when the night closed in, and he went home to his lonely rooms. Nor were they lightened by the hour that saw him, in the uniform of ceremony, and with that mourning-band upon the sleeve of the dark blue full-dress uniform frock, that the Princess Marie-Bathilde’s son could not deny to the memory of her father, pitching and tossing in a hired cabriolet over the upheaved pavements of the Paris streets, on his way to the Rue de Sevres, where in a stately suite of apartments sufficiently near the Rue de l’Assyrie—once forming part of the ancient Cistercian convent of the Abbaye-aux-Bois, the de Roux were established with some degree of splendor; visited by certain of the lesser luminaries of the great world, and receiving the cream of military society.
Dunoisse, to the ring of his dressspurs upon the pavement, passed in by the glazed double-doors. A somnolent porter, rousing out of his chair, admitted the guest by yet another glass door to a handsome vestibule upon the ground floor, an orderly-sergeant of the 999th saluted his officer, received his cloak, shako, and sword, delivered him to a footman in light green livery with silver cords and shoulder-knots, whose roseate calves preceded him, across an ante-room of stately proportions, towards a high doorway, draped with curtains of deep crimson velvet tasselled with gold. Brilliant light streamed from between the curtains, warm fragrance was borne to the nostrils of the visitor with the hum of voices; the white shoulders of ladies, their ringleted heads wreathed in the charming fashion of the day, with natural flowers, moved across the shining vista, companioned by the figures of men in uniform, or lay-wear of the latest mode and most fashionable shades of color; or displaying the severe black frock-coat and tricolored rosette of the New Provisional Government of France.
A man thus distinguished was speaking, as the footman raised the crimson curtain and signed to Dunoisse to pass beneath. A cessation in the stream of general chatter had conveyed that the speaker was worth hearing. And in the dignity of the massively-proportioned figure, crowned by a leonine head of long waved auburn hair, in the deep melodious tones of the voice that rose and fell, swelled or sang at the will of the accomplished orator, there was something that fascinated the imagination and stirred the pulse.
“No, Madame, I do not despise Rank or Wealth,” he said to a seated lady of graceful shape, whose face, like his own, was turned from the doorway and invisible to the entering guest. “But though I'do not despise, I fear them. They should be handled as ancient chemists handled subtle poisons, wearing glass masks and gloves of steel.” '
No one answered. The speaker continued :
“That Kings have been noble and heroic—that Emperors have reigned who have been virtuous and honest men can be proved from the pages of History. Their reigns are threads of gold in a fabric of inky black. The reverence in which we hold their names proves them to have been prodigies. They, by some miracle of God or Nature —were not as evil as they might have been. ... For, even as the handle of the racket used by the Eastern tyrant had been impregnated, by the skill of the wise physician, with healing agents; the juice of medicinal herbs that, entering by the pores, cleansed, purified, regenerated the leper’s corrupted flesh; so in the folds of the ermine mantle there lurks deadly contagion: so, in the grasp of the jewelled truncheon of State there is a corroding poison that eats to the heart and brain.”
The mellow-voiced orator ceased, and the silence into which the closing sentences had fallen was broken by the announcement of Dunoisse’s name. The recent speaker glanced around as it was uttered. Only to one man could that pale, close-shaven, classic mask be* long; only one brain could house be* hind the marble rampart of that splendid forhead, or speak in the flashing glances of those gold-bronze eagle-eyes. It was Victor Hugo; and the thrill a young man knows in the recognition of a hero, or the discovery of a demigod, went through Dunoisse, as amidst the rustling of silks and satins, the fluttering of fans and the agitation of many heads, curled, or ringleted or braided, that turned to stare, he moved over the pale Aubusson carpet towards the seated figure of a lady, indicated by the footman’s whisper as the mistress of the house. ;
How soon the demigod was to be forgotten in the revelation of the goddess. . . .
As the writer of the lilac-colored note rose up, with supple indolent grace, amidst a whispering purplish-,gray sea of crisp delicate silken flounces,—held ont a small white hand flashing with di-
amonds and rubies—murmured something vaguely musical about being charmed;—as Dunoisse, having bent over the extended hand with the required degree of devotion, raised his head from the ceremonious salute, a pair of eyes that were, upon that particular night, hazel-green as brook-water in
shadow, looked deep into his own.....
And the heart beating behind the young soldier’s Algerian medals knocked heavily once, twice, thrice!—as they knock behind the curtain of the Théâtre Francais when the curtain is about to raise upon the First Act, and the strong young throat encircled by the stiff black-satin-covered leather stock, and the collar with the golden Staff thunderbolt, knew a choking sensation, and the blood hummed loudly in his ears.
A flame, subtle, electric, delicate and keen, had passed into him with the look of those eyes, with the touch of the little velvet hand that was fated to draw, what wild melody, what frenzied discords from the throbbing hearts of men. ...
And the gates of his heart opened wide. And with a burst of triumphant music Henriette passed in,—and they were shut and locked and barred behind her.
Ah! Henriette, what shall I say of you? How with this halting pen make you live and be for others as you exist and are for me?
There are men and women born upon this earth, who, walking lightly, yet print deep, ineffaceable footprints upon the age in which they live. The world is better for them; their breath has purified the atmosphere they existed in. . . . Ignorant of their predestination as they are, every word and act of theirs bears the seal of the Divine Intelligence. s They are sent to do the work of the Most High.
And there are men and women who appear and vanish like shooting stars or falling meteors. Their path . is traced in ruin and devastation, as the
path of the tornado, as the path of the locust is. And having accomplished their appointed work, they pass on like the destroying wind, like the winged devourer; leaving prone trees and ruined homes, wrecked ships, stripped fields— Death where there was Life.
Think of Henriette as one of the fatal forces, a velvet-voiced, black-haired woman, with a goddess’s shape and a skin of cream, such little hands and feet >as might have graced an Andalusian lady,—with mobile features—the mouth especially being capable of every variety of expression—and with great eyes of changing color, sometimes agate-brown, sometimes peridot-green, sometimes dusky gray. Shaping her image thus in words, I have conveyed to you nothing. No sorceress is unveiled, no wonder shown.
IT seemed to Dunoisee that he had always known her, always waited for her to reveal herself just in this manner, as she rose up amidst the crisping rustle of innumerable little flounces, outstretched the white arm partly veiled by the scarf of black flowered lace— shed the brilliance of her look upon him, and smiled like a naughty angel or a sweet mischievous child, saying in a soft voice that was strange to his ears and yet divinely familiar:
“So we meet at last?”
He found no better reply than: “You were not at home, Madame, when I paid my visit of ceremony.”
“I detest visits of ceremony,” she said, and her tone robbed the words of harshness.
“Do you then turn all unknown visitors from your doors?” Dunoisse queried. Her smile almost dazzled him as she responded:
“No, Monsieur ... I turn them into friends.” Adding, as he stood confounded at the vast possibilities her words suggested: “And I have wished to know you. . . My husband has told me much. . . . But in these time of disturbance, how is it possible to be
social? One can only remain quiescent, and look on while History is made.”
“I have been quiescent enough, Heaven knows! — for nearly a week past,” said Dunoisse, “without even the consolation of looking on.”
Her shadowy glance was full of kindness.
“I know ! . . Poor boy 1” She added quickly : “Do not be offended at my calling you a boy. I am twenty-five nearly! . . . Old enough to be your elder sister, Monsieur. . . . Have you sisters? If so, I should like to call them friends.”
“I had one sister,” said Dunoisse, his eyes upon a night-black curl that lay upon an ivory shoulder. “She died very young—a mere infant.”
“Poor little angel!”
Henriette de Roux rather objected to children—thought them anything but little angels. But her white bosom heaved and fell, and a glittering tear trembled an instant on a sable eyelash. And so infectious is sentiment, that Hector, who dedicated a regret to the memory of the departed cherub on an average once a year, echoed her sigh.
The silver-coated roach, contemplating the dangling bait of the angler, is quite aware that for the innumerable generations the members of his family have succumbed to the attraction of the pill of paste that conceals the barbed hook. Yet he deliberately sucks it in, and is borne swiftly upwards, leaving in the round-eyed family circle a gap that is soon refilled.
That tear of Henriette’s was the bait. When her sigh was echoed, it was to the feminine fisher of men significant as the slow, deliberate curtsey of the float is to the angler for the slimy children of the river. Variable as a fay in a rainbow, she smiled dazzlingly upon the young man ; and said, touching him lightly upon the arm with her Spanish fan and leaning indolently back in the fauteuil that was almost hidden beneath the rippling wavelets of her purplishgray flounces :
“Look round. Tell me what flower is most in evidence to-night?”
Thus bidden, Dunoisse turned his glance questingly about. A moment gave the answer. The corsage of every lady present, no matter of what costly hothouse blooms her bouquet and wreath might be composed, had its bunch of violets; the coat of every man displayed the Napoleonic emblem. His eyes went back to meet an intent look from Henriette. She said:
“You do not wear that flower, Monsieur !”
He returned her look with the answer :
“My military oath was of allegiance to a King. And though the King be discrowned and the Republic claims my services, I know nothing of an Empire—at least, not yet.”
The irony stung. She bit her scarlet lip, and said, with a bright glance that triumphed and challenged:
“Unless the winds and tides have conspired against us, the Emperor will be in Paris to-night.”
“Indeed!” The reports bandied, the bets made at the Club, came back upon Dunoisse’s memory. He said: “Then Prince Louis-Napoleon has determined to risk the step?”
She answered with energy:
“He is of a race that think little of risking. The son of Marshal Dunoisse should know that. . . . Ah! how it must grieve your father to know you indifferent to the great traditions of that noble family!”
Hector answered her with a darkening forehead:
“My father congratulated me upon good service rendered to the cause of Imperialism—only yesterday.” He added as Madame de Roux opened her beautiful eyes inquiringly: “He is of
the comprehensive majority who hold me guilty of that deed of bloodshed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He-”
Dunoisse broke off. She had become so pale that he knew a shock of terror. Deep shadows filled the caves whence stared a pair of haunted eyes. There were hollows in her cheeks— lines about her mouth that he had never dreamed of. ... A broken whis-
per came from the stiff white lips that said:
“Do not seem to notice..... It is
the. . . heat! . . .”
Hector exquisitely distressed, forced his gaze elsewhere. Long seconds passed, during which he could hear her breathing; then the voice said:
“Thanks! ... You may look at me now 1”
He found her still pale, but without that bleak look of horror that had appalled him. She tried to smile with lips that had partly regained their hue. She asked, averting her gaze from him:
“Your father. . . . What did you answer to him when he—said that— that you had rendered good service to the Imperial cause?”
“I told him,” Dunoisse answered her, “that I could testify to my innocence of that guilty deed before Heaven. And that I should assert it before the tribunals of men.”
She murmered in a tone that gave the impression of breathlessness:
“There will be an official inquiry?”
“This evening when I returned to my quarters to change my dress, I received a summons to appear before a Court-Martial of Investigation, to be held at the Barracks in three day’s time. Perhaps with this cloud hanging over me I should not have accepted your invitation? but I thought. . . I imagined. . . you could not fail to know !”
She said, with a transient gleam of mockery in her glance, though her eyebrows were knitted as though in troubled reflection:
“Husbands do not tell their wives everything. And I am an Imperialist like your father. . . . How should I blame you for an act that counts to us? But we will speak of this later. . . . Here is Colonel de Roux. . . .”
Dunoisse’s eyes involuntarily sought and found de Roux. The Countess made a signal with her Spanish fan. And as if a wire had been jerked, the purple-haired, blood-shot-eyed, elderly,
rouged dandy, the centre of a knot of ladies to whom he was playing the gallant, excused himself and crossed to his wife's side. He had been all cordiality and civility that morning in his office at the Barracks in the Rue de l'Assyrie ; he was cordial and civil now, as he insinuated his arm through Dunoisse's and led him this way and that amongst his guests, presenting him to ladies, introducing men.
The gathering in the de Rouxs drawing-room represented all ranks and classes of Society, severely excepting the exclusive circle of the Faubourg Saint Germain. There were Dukes of Empire creation with their Duchesses, there were peers of the Monarchy now defunct. Politicians, financiers, editors, and dandies rubbed shoulders with stars of the stage, and comets of the concert-room ; painters great and small, and fashionable men of letters. And above all towered the massive figure and leonine head of the man who had been speaking when Dunoisse had been announced.
Free from self-consciousness as he was, Dunoisse, with the taint of the blood shed upon the Boulevard des Capucines hot upon his memory, was not slow in awakening to the fact that the majority of the women present regarded him with peculiar interest; and that many of their male companions turned eyeglasses his way. Several of the ladies curtseyed . . . some of the gentlemen bowed low; more than one feathered dowager styled him “Serene Highness" and “Monseigneur.". . . And with a rush of angry blood to his temples and forehead, darkening still further his tawny-reddish skin, and adding to the brilliance of his black-diamond eyes, the young man realized that the fact of Paris being in the throes of Red Revolution had not deprived, in such eyes as these, the newspaper mooted question of the Widinitz Succession of its vulgar charm. And
that, on the strength of the hateful episode at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in combination with the intrigues of the Marshal, Sub-Adjutant Hector Dunoisse had become a personage to fawn upon and flatter, to invite and entertain.
The band of crape about his sleeve began to burn him. The now overcrowded drawing-rooms seemed suffocatingly hot. Madame de Roux had become the invisible, attractive nucleus of a crowd of civilian coats and blazing uniforms. . . . Dunoisse, alternately tempted by the thought of escape, teased by the desire to join that magic circle, was enduring the civilities of a group of ogling ladies and grinning exquisites with what outward patience he could muster, when he encountered, through a gap in the wall of heads and shoulders, the gaze of a pair of gold-bronze eagle eyes, glowing beneath a vast white forehead crowned with pale flowing locks of auburn hair.
For an instant he forgot his boredom, his desire to regain the side of Madame de Roux, or to escape from the perfumed, overheated rooms. He was grateful when a surge of the everthickening crowd of guests brought him within touch of the plainly-dressed, perfectly-mannered gentleman who was the elected chief and generalissimo of the Free Lances of Romance. But, as Dunoisse gained the Master's side, the tall rounded shape of Madame de Roux swept by, leaning on the arm of a white-haired general officer in a brilliant Staff uniform ablaze with decorations.....A knot of purple
blossoms had fallen from amongst her laces as she went by. They lay close to his foot. He stooped and picked them up with a hand that was not quite steady. And as he mechanically lifted the violets to his face, still looking after the swaying, smoothlygliding figure, he started, for Hugo spoke. The deep melodious voice said:
“ Between Two Thieves ” will be continued in the July issue of